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9 N. Korean workers in Russia defected to S. Korea last year: professor


SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) — Nine North Korean workers dispatched to Russia for dollar earnings defected to South Korea late last year amid Moscow’s protracted war with Ukraine, according to a professor in the South on Wednesday.

The North Koreans, all men aged between 20s and 50s, came to the South in December 2022 and have been receiving education at the state-run resettlement center for the North’s defectors, according to Kang Dong-wan, professor at Dong-A University.

“The outbreak of Russia’s war with Ukraine caused a stir (among the North’s workers) and prompted them to decide to go to the South,” Kang said of their motive for defection.

The professor said two of them were soldiers in their 20s, and others included longtime loggers aged between 40s and 50s, adding they were not acquainted with each other, as they have different social backgrounds.

U.S.-based media outlet Radio Free Asia (RFA) earlier reported North Korean workers in Russia are trying to flee on concerns that they could be forcibly sent to Russian-occupied east Ukraine.

Seoul’s unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said the government cannot confirm whether the North’s workers in Russia defected to the South.

“We cannot confirm issues related to North Korean defectors due to safety concerns,” a ministry official said.

This undated file photo, provided by Kang Dong-wan, professor at Dong-A University, and carried in his book, shows North Korean workers at a construction site in Russia. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This undated file photo, provided by Kang Dong-wan, professor at Dong-A University, and carried in his book, shows North Korean workers at a construction site in Russia. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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